By Richard Lawrence-Allen
Whether we are dealing with a sales call, a customer service enquiry or a complaint, it is always our ultimate goal to ensure that the customers that we deal with end the call on a high note, having received an excellent standard of service throughout. In order to maintain this level of customer care, there are certain qualities that every contact centre agent must have and implement on each and every call. Here are my top tips:
While it may sound like an obvious thing to note, the people we interact with on the phones are just that, they are people, and not disembodied voices sent to test us! Excellent service differentiates from those that treat customers as numbers to process, and those that are able to interact with their customers on a human level.
On a customer service complaint call for example, it should be a given that an excellent agent will be able to show the customer that they are able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, fully understanding their concerns/grievances and a genuine desire to solve their problem. Showing a true level of care such as this is likely to satisfy a customer quickly, as even if the problem takes longer to resolve overall, the customer will be reassured that their complaint is being treated seriously and will be resolved in a timely manner.
This is all fairly self-evident you would think. However, many people do tend to forget that this empathy is just as vital in a sales interaction as it is in a complaints situation. If a customer is wavering on whether they are going to make a purchase, sticking to a generic sales pitch or is not going to help close the sale. To proceed with the sale, a good agent needs to address the customer’s thought processes and blocks preventing them from finalising any deal right then and there. The customer should be made to feel that the sales agent understands these points of view, while offering tailored solutions to overcome these blocks, things that they themselves would find useful, and not just give the customer a stock response. This leads me on to my next point.
2. Active Listening & Adaptability:
When dealing with a large number of customers in a comparatively short amount of time it can be easy to forget that all of the interaction for the customer is brand new. While you may have had a very similar conversation on the same subject matter 20 times before in one day, the customer has not, and so each call must be taken as if it was fresh and new. Everyone on this entire planet is different and so each of your phone calls too should be different. Whether it is a complaint you heard a hundred times before, or a sale call for an offer that you’ve been making all day every day for a week, each customer’s experience with and reaction to these things will be individual to them and so should a good agent’s responses. Due to the repetitious nature of some campaigns it can be an easy trap for an agent to fall into a sense of automation, and miss the nuances that each conversation holds, a phrase or tone of voice that holds the key to giving that specific customer a good experience in that specific moment. We always remind our staff to treat each phone call as if they’d never had a conversation such as that before, promoting them to focus and truly listen on each and every call. As the staff here at RSVP is made up of professionally trained actors, this is something that they are very adept at, having to give fresh and exciting performances of theatrical performances night after night, finding new things to play with each performance with the same script.
It is important to treat people as people and not as a chore. Some of the worst customer service experiences that I have ever experienced over the years have been where my questions or even my business has been treated as an inconvenience to the individual assisting me. This is most definitely not a way to go about giving a customer a good experience. As previously mentioned, the nature of contact centre work can be repetitious and when dealing with a customer that has a complaint similar to one you’ve solved several times in one day already or a sales call where the customer is taking a long time to weigh up their options. Patience can wear thin after a long a day, but it is fundamentally important to keep your patience strong. As I have mentioned, each call is brand new for the customer, even if it is not for you. Taking the time to do things thoroughly for each customer, to let them ask questions, digest information and be heard will help to put a customer at ease and leave them satisfied with the outcome of the call.
4. Clear Communication & Honesty
Contact centre operators love to talk. Otherwise they wouldn’t do the job that they do! This is obviously a fantastic quality, but sometimes in a seasoned agent this can translate into jargonising their conversations and burying their customers in unnecessary waffle. There is little that can frustrate a customer more than leaving a phone conversation without a clear understanding of what they have purchased or without certain knowledge of how their complaint is being resolved. It is important that customers are given all of the necessary information that they need in a clear and concise manner using language that they can understand. This means that a customer will leave reassured that they and agent are on the same page and that the call resolved with the best possible outcome for them based on the explanation of the details that they were provided. It is important to avoid using vague or ambiguous language that is open to more than one interpretation as this can lead to uncertainty or misunderstanding resulting in future problems or complaints.
5. Positive Attitude
Finally, one of the most important qualities to maintain across all calls is a positive attitude. This benefits not just the customer but also the agent themselves! A positive attitude is infectious and if you great a customer with positivity throughout a call, any frustrations that the customer may feel will be eased. Going into each call with a positive stride and the confidence that a problem can be easily resolved or that a sale will be made will make each phone call a pleasant experience for customer and agent alike. Smile while you dial!
If these 5 basic pillars of customer care are followed on each call, whether a sale is made or not, whether a problem is solved quickly or slowly, a customer will be left happy and a happy customer is one that will return again and again for years to come. These are the things that we are constantly reminding staff at RSVP to remember and why our call quality and success rates remain so high.